Students in Calgary are opting for alternatives to campus park-and-pay lots to save a few dollars.
Pricey parkade fees and bylaw infraction tickets issued on Calgary streets in the vicinity of post-secondary schools are two reasons that the daily commute for many students has become a strategic challenge.
Logan Sylvestre, who recently completed his electrical apprenticeship at SAIT, said he would park near 15th Street and 20th Avenue N.W., walking about 15 minutes every day, because it was free.
“Parking on SAIT’s main campus is pretty unreasonable for students,” said Sylvestre.
The SAIT parking garage, that operates on a pay-upon-exit basis, charges a $5 flat rate upon entry for the first hour or less, and adds $1.75 per half-hour after that, to a maximum of $17 in long-term parking and up to $26 in short-term parking.
Meighan Giesbrecht, a recent graduate of SAIT’s architectural technologies program, said she never paid the $17 or $26 parking garage fee.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous to ask students to pay that much,” said Giesbrecht.
Giesbrecht said her strategy for parking was to cross 10th Street N.W. into the neighbourhood of Rosedale, east of SAIT, where there is free two-hour parking on most of the streets.
“I would park there in the morning [but] if I had class all day, I would move my car across the street at lunch, then go to my afternoon class.”
Giesbrecht said that if she was to get a ticket, she figured that getting a ticket once a month would be cheaper than paying every day for on-campus parking.
Some students also choose to park down the hill from SAIT in the Jubilee or Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) parkade, where there is a cash-only entrance fee of $11.
Cassandra Green, an architectural technologies graduate, said she used to park at ACAD quite often.
Green also said that if she knew she would still be at SAIT late, she would opt to use the SAIT parking garage.
“After 11 p.m., the gates [would] lift up, so I didn’t have to pay” said Green.
Green added that she would often take the train, or bus as an alternative to driving to school.
“I would [often] park at McMahon Stadium for $3 and take the train from there.”
Most full-time programs at SAIT offer a UPass included with tuition fees.
UPasses are generally sold for $130 for use of Calgary Transit for four months.
SAIT issues four-month term parking passes that are $565 (with a $25 refundable deposit), and eight-month term parking passes for $1,105 (with a $25 refundable deposit).
Mount Royal University (MRU), by comparison, offers a variety of permit rates, depending on the location of the lot.
MRU bachelor of business administration in marketing student Laura Leask said the most expensive permit at the university is $1,536 per year or about $800 per semester.
“[They’re] the most expensive because it’s the best parking,” said Leask.
Leask admits to parking in a secret “business” lot across the street from MRU, where permits are “technically” required, although she has not received a ticket yet.
“I have saved so much money because of it.”
Students at SAIT will wait in long lines every year to acquire parking passes as they are expected to sell out early.
SAIT residence and non-residence parking passes are said to be limited and not guaranteed.
Many students will continue to choose to park-and-walk, or use public transit, instead of paying to park on campus, or purchasing a parking pass.
Rachel Plumb, who is in her final month of practicum in her respiratory therapy program at SAIT, said she would buy a ticket for $6 at Sears in North Hill Centre and walk to SAIT from there.
“There’s a pay station in the Sears parking lot [where] you just pay the amount of hours you are going to be there,” said Plumb.
It’s absolutely ridiculous to ask students to pay that much. – Meighan Giesbrecht.
William Rennie, a respiratory therapy graduate from SAIT, said to avoid parking on campus, he used to take the train, and if he did drive, he too would park across 14th Street N.W. at the North Hill Centre.
Rennie believes the student association at SAIT should run the parking program.
“For the students, and paid for by the students,” said Rennie.
“If students are paying into something, they should see more out of it.”
Rennie said he thinks that if the fees go back into student council, surrounding facilities and events, it would create more of a student body or culture at the school.